Intrigue World!

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Intrigue World!
« on: September 30, 2014, 10:48:29 PM »
Hello, everyone.

A friend of mine introduced me to Apocalypse World a year or so ago; I immediately liked the game and have run several campaigns of it since. I decided for my next one I would make and use a hack of AW, so last weekend I wrote one up for my favorite style of low-fantasy mystery/spy-thriller/political intrigue kind of game.

I've got it on google drive here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B2hIfpmotX2cTWNkY1R1Q1ZkYzA&usp=sharing

It's complete or close to it. Most of the basic rules (5 stats, 7 basic moves, harm clock and harm move, barter moves, etc.) are similar to or the same as AW's but reskinned with some minor changes or additions. Replacing all the old playbooks are 17 new classes.
Perhaps most significantly, the game now revolves around 3 or more secret Agendas for each player's character, established in private with the GM during character creation. Pursuing your Agendas is the main way you get XP, along with deepening your relationships with the other characters. However, the Agendas are set up such that many of them will conflict and interfere with one another- thereby bringing the player characters into a messy web of alliances of convenience, betrayal, and opposition that none of them fully understands as they struggle to accomplish their own characters' goals.
That ongoing and chaotic struggle is the main focus of the game and so a lot of the moves and class features are designed to mess with the other PCs or find out what they're up to and subvert their plans and so on.
At the same time, the GM is encouraged to introduce events and problems that require the PCs to find common cause with one another from time to time as well as shake up their plans.

That about sums up the game in a nutshell, I'll be beginning playtesting soon and I'm very interested in any of your feedback about the game.

Oh, and at what point is a hack complete enough that it can get its own page in the Hacks section?

Re: Intrigue World!
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2014, 11:51:18 PM »
Playtesting is beginning. So far the main hangup seems to be trying to get players to make good agendas- ones that other players will actually affect and ones that have a smart enough plan leading to them that they could actually be accomplished.

One player has taken issue with the way Cast a Deadly Spell (the Magician's move that lets him use magic as a weapon, page 46) works. What do you guys think of that move and its effects and how it must be used in conjunction with another move which allows one to actually wield a weapon against someone?

Re: Intrigue World!
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2014, 12:47:30 PM »
From the text it looks like an Agenda is hidden from the other players. It's difficult for players to interact with things they don't know about. If the secrecy is not the problem, then presenting a large sample of agendas people can choose from (and that you've designed to cross paths) might help focus things so they aren't all going in different directions. Or you and the group establish a couple of big moving pieces first and then have players form some of their agendas around those pieces.

I know this will come off sounding nit-picky (especially since most players won't be reading the text), but if nobody is getting agendas a good place to start fixing it is the text. You might need to clarify the text to help clarify for you how agendas work in your game. The text describes a lot of what the designer wants agendas to do, but needs more about how to accomplish the task and how they work during play.

CAST A DEADLY SPELL: While I can read the move and figure out what it does, the way it is written feels too cumbersome to be fun during play. Definitely clean up the language to make it more direct. If the language is direct, you won't need as many clarifying sentences that dance around what the move is supposed to do.

Re: Intrigue World!
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2014, 09:15:12 PM »
Agendas definitely are supposed to be secret and that's not the problem; the problem is that some people just seem incapable of coming up with more than 1 thing their character cares about. I think you might have a good idea with what you said about establishing some big moving pieces first; that might give the less creative players a better starting point.

I can certainly rewrite Cast a Deadly Spell to be clearer, but that doesn't resolve the fundamental disapproval of how it works that one of my players has. The big question is essentially whether it's a reasonable idea to have a move that only works in conjunction with another move.

*

Munin

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Re: Intrigue World!
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2014, 09:46:20 AM »
The big question is essentially whether it's a reasonable idea to have a move that only works in conjunction with another move.
You mean like help of interfere? There's certainly precedent for moves that affect other moves, or moves that spawn other moves. But in all the cases I can think of off hand, it's never the same character rolling twice, and I think that's probably by design. Apocalypse World, in all its various incarnations, is very good at cutting things down to the minimum number of rolls needed to tell the story. So instead of asking if it's reasonable to have a move that only works in conjunction with another move, maybe the question should be, "does this move add anything to the story?" or "what are the consequences of success or failure with this move?" or maybe "could the effects of this move be accomplished by other means such as adding or subtracting tags from something or someone?"

It is of note that when AW does this, it's not an additional move, it's essentially a stat substitution move. Look at the Brainer move that allows you to go aggro with your mind as an example.

Agendas definitely are supposed to be secret and that's not the problem; the problem is that some people just seem incapable of coming up with more than 1 thing their character cares about.
Have you looked at the state of political discourse lately? Most people seem incapable of caring about more than one thing.

I think the problem is that the agendas are too nebulous. Nebulous is great in your head. But where the rubber meets the road, nebulous can be less helpful, especially when everyone is being nebulous.

What makes this doubly difficult is that the world is not defined. It's all well and fine to come up with a motivation of "become Grand Vizier" if you know that the position of Grand Vizier exists in the first place.  But what about, "become Regent?" Who is king (or queen)? Who is in line for the throne? How old are those people? How is succession determined? Is it straight-up primogeniture, or is it more complicated? And more broadly, are other ranks and titles hereditary?

Does the monarch rule completely by fiat or are there limits to the sovereign's power? Is there a privy council? A parliament? How is membership in these bodies decided? What constitutes "power" in the current system of government? The ear of the king? A large voting block in the assembly? Wealth? Military might?

Similarly for anything related to wealth: what positions provide opportunities for creative accounting? How do taxes work? Are there guilds? How do they work? Do they have representation in the government, and if so what does that look like?

I've been a player in this kind of game before, where the GM wanted intrigue but didn't give us any detail for how the world worked. It is paralyzing because you a) have no idea what's possible, and b) have no idea what steps you need to take to get there.

I'm not saying you need to create every last detail of how the setting works and make the players drink from the firehose (because that can suck too).  But I think what you need to do is put some more thought into simplifying this and come up with some lists of useful or helpful options to spur your players' creative juices. I would also separate things into primary objectives and secondary objectives. Or maybe long-term and short term goals.

So for instance, if my long term goal is "achieve wealth and splendor," there are a variety of ways I might do that. Corner a local market, engage in risky deals, steal the fruits of others' labors, gain position or office that is ripe for abuse, etc. Alternately, if my long term goal is "cover myself and my family in glory" then I might want to achieve military honors, serve with distinction, remove an embarrassing relative from office, elevate a deserving relative to power, foil a plot against a powerful official, or be seen to be selfless.

I am guessing that if you give your players a laundry list of basic ideas from which they can start, they'll fill in all of the details and motivations you're really after. It's far easier to give someone a list and say, "pick three" than it is to have people make up three fully fleshed out motivations from whole cloth, especially when they know little or nothing about how the world works. It will also make it easier for the GM to see the areas where things overlap. So if I'm trying to "gain a position or office that is ripe for abuse" and you are trying to "elevate a deserving relative to power," then the GM can set it up such that both of us are jockeying for the same position. We'll happily work together to disgrace and bring about the downfall of the guy who currently holds that position, then ruthlessly oppose each other when it comes time to fill it, which is more or less the kind of interplay it seems you want.

More broadly I have an issue with your experience mechanics. Both of the ways of gaining XP that you have outlined (deepening a Bond or making progress on an Agenda) are up to the GM. That is completely counter to how the Apocalypse Engine works, where the players are in control of how they gain experience. In AW if my Hot is highlighted and I roll it, I get XP. Even if it's a -2 and even if I fail. If my Hard is highlighted, when and how I resort to violence is my choice. The system you have designed here is pretty nebulous and doesn't allow for player input or control. I think you need to scrap it and go back to the drawing board. At the very least I'd give the players the ability to change each others' Bonds much like you do with Hx.

Also, why no seduction? How can you have intrigue without seduction?